BELTSVILLE, Md.When tested for nutrient content, "microgreens"edible greens from the seeds of vegetables and herbs harvested at the seedling stagecontained levels of vitamins and carotenoids at amounts five times greater than that of their mature plant counterparts, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) analyzed key nutrientsincluding vitamin C, E and K, as well as beta-carotene and other carotenoids essential for human healthin 25 microgreens.
Microgreens are edible greens which germinate from the seeds of vegetables and herbs and are harvested without roots at the seedling stage. At this stage, the greens have two fully expanded cotyledons, or seed leaves. These greens are often used for garnishing salads, soups, plates and sandwiches.
Key nutrients measured were ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), plus other related carotenoids in the cotyledons that are critical for human health and function.
In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoidsabout five times greaterthan their mature plant counterparts. Different microgreens contained widely differing amounts of vitamins and carotenoids. Total vitamin C content ranged from 20 to 147 mg per 100 grams of cotyledon fresh weight, depending on which plant species was being tested. The amounts of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin and violaxanthin ranged from about 0.6 mg to 12.1 mg per 100 grams of fresh weight.
Among the 25 microgreens tested, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E, respectively. Growing, harvesting, and handling conditions may have a considerable effect on nutrient content.
In addition to an array of health benefits, such as improved eye health, carotenoids may have a positive effect on facial appearance and skin health when consumed regularly. In a recent study, researchers used a selection of underutilized Malaysian fruits in fruit beverages to determine what effect a carotenoid-rich fresh fruit drink could have on skin and perceived attractiveness.